Industrial robots have historically been separated from humans by cages and other types of guarding systems, protecting people from interacting with the machines. Collaborative robots, or cobots, are designed to have the ability to share the same space as human workers, taking over dangerous and repetitive tasks and learning from their interactions with humans.
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Industrial robots are transforming factories, production facilities and manufacturing plants around the world. Incorporating new collaborative robots (cobots) has allowed companies to boost productivity, improve quality and reduce costs. In fact, it is expected that the robotics industry will reach 2.6M units deployed worldwide by 2019 (World Robotics Report 2016, IFR). Some of the examples of robot applications include pick and place, harsh environments and assembly line.
Real-looking tooth implants, artificial limbs with impressive functionality and bioresorbable materials that are dissolved by the body at the end of their useful life – prosthetics and implants have reached such a level that they are much more than just a version of the human original. In actual fact, many of them are hardly inferior to the real thing.
Industrial robots are generally used at some distance from people, to ensure human safety. Along with advancement in sensors and control technology, the latest version of the International Standard covering robots (ISO 10218) permits people to collaborate with robots. In Japan, as well, a partial revision of the Occupational Safety and Health Regulations of 2013 makes the regulation of safety fences and other protections less strict, which makes collaborative work between workers and robots possible.
By Mr. Roberto Lorenzoni
Humans have been fascinated by robots for a long time. Robots show intelligent behavior, are resourceful, and can work ceaselessly. Science fiction movies have brought robots to life, and although movie scenarios are exaggerated, robots will play an integral part to our future. Most of the time Robots serve humans and interact with them empathetically, while other times, they are aggressive towards humans and have a mission to conquer, enslave, or exterminate the human race. Generally we believe that Robots will be beneficial to our advancement and that humans will control machines and use them for good. However, some people feel that machines could take over our lives, take jobs away from the work force, and outcompete humans. Therefore, it is important that we start deliberating on social, ethical and legal issues, as well as the role machines will play in our lives.
Opening a dialog on how machines can be introduced smoothly into our daily lives is crucial, especially now, as Technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) continue to develop at a fast pace. The European Parliament categorizes AI as “Electronic Persons”, and believes that they will resemble people and even probably surpass human intellectual capacity soon. This leaves us with a crucial question. Who will be in control?